Shaky Market Worries Business Students, Alumni

October 31, 2008  

By Chase Cusack

Carlos Suñe, a senior finance major at SMU, has a diverse resume. The Cox student speaks three languages, has traveled abroad, and interned for almost eight months with Fanny Mae as a financial intermediaries group business analyst.

Yet even with his credentials, Suñe is still worried as he begins searching for a job.

“I can’t remember what a normal market looks like, it’s been up and down hundreds [of points] or more every day for a year and a half.”

One week the Dow Jones is trading below 9,000 points for the first time in five years and the next, the DJIA is up almost 900 points in a single day. The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual, the federal takeovers of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, and the sale of Merill Lynch to Bank of America have all contributed to a unstable economy that has people across the country nervous.

Business students worry about getting jobs

Students at SMU’s Cox School of Business have one main concern on their mind: getting a job. Applications have roughly doubled for some of the more desirable positions available through on-campus recruiting. More students are competing for jobs in investment banking and other fields hard hit by the economic rollercoaster.

Roycee Kerr, the director of the BBA Career Services office, stresses that with more people applying for the same positions, students must put more emphasis on setting themselves apart from their peers.

“Our primary concern is that students need to have a sense of urgency,” Kerr said. “It’s not a time to panic, but to take action.”

With companies becoming more selective, students must take the extra steps needed to stay competitive. Tailoring and updating resumes for specific employers, attending information sessions or luncheons, and maintaining a strong GPA have shifted from being recommended to being essential steps in the recruitment process.

Economy also concerns alums

It’s not just current SMU students who are concerned, but alumni as well. The BBA Career Services Office saw a 180 percent increase in alumni appointments last year. This academic year to date has seen a 76 percent jump.

The number of jobs open to finance majors has taken a hit, and Stuart Campbell, a finance and economics major at SMU, feels uncertain about the times ahead.

“I would’ve said a month ago that I would have no problem getting a job. Now I’m more concerned,” said Campbell. “A lot of guys with 10 years of experience are now in the market for jobs, whereas I will only have two years of an internship.”

The post-graduate situation may not be so dour according to the BBA Career Services office. Their staff looks at each graduating class and uses a three month mark to measure their success.

Ninety percent of the May 2008 Cox graduates either had jobs or went on to graduate school. But one indication of the changing times may be that more students are choosing to enter grad school immediately after college. There was a five percent increase in the number of students attending grad school compared to the May ’07 class.

Local businesses also affected

The Dallas-Plano-Irving area has also proved to be somewhat of an anomaly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, found that the area had a year-over-year increase in employment of 2.6 percent. This was the highest employment gain of the 32 metropolitan areas surveyed.

Still, many companies involved in finance have to find ways to cut costs. One area affected by budget trimming is paid internships. One Cox senior, who asked to remain anonymous due to a confidentiality agreement he signed with the company, had his internship end earlier this year for economic reasons.

In some cases, instead of ending internships entirely, companies have changed positions from paid to unpaid, Kerr said.

While the market remains a question mark, Suñe’s faith is much stronger in the mentality and work ethic instilled on Cox students by the SMU faculty.

“SMU trains us, if not over-trains us to get high-level jobs. And even if you start out at a lower level than you’d prefer, you can still get to where you want to be.”

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2 Responses to “Shaky Market Worries Business Students, Alumni”

  1. Debra Henderson on November 2nd, 2008 11:02 pm

    Excellent, thoughtfully written article- I think SMU Business grads have a good position in the marketplace, regardless of the economy

  2. M. Bowles on November 4th, 2008 7:41 am

    Great article! Well written and informative!